NEW YORK – Gains in Amazon and Disney helped U.S. stocks mute declines led by energy shares, as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index struggled to advance for the year entering the final trading days of 2015.
The S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent to 2,056.55 at 4 p.m. in New York, as the gauge in afternoon trading whittled down an earlier 0.8 percent decline. This week is shortened, with markets closed for the New Year’s Day holiday on Friday.
“There’s an old saying, ‘Don’t short a dull market,’ and some of this is consistent with that,” said Michael Gayed, chief investment strategist who helps to manage $200 million at Pension Partners in New York. “A lot of people have probably checked out this week and there are lower volumes today, so that could explain some of this. We’ve also seen a lot of strength tend to happen later on in the day this year.”
Oil led a retreat among commodities Monday, sliding more than 3 percent from a three-week high as Iran repeated its goal of boosting exports after sanctions on the country are lifted. A drop in Chinese industrial profits also weighed on sentiment toward raw materials. That’s a turnaround after the S&P 500 surged 2.8 percent last week, buoyed by gains in this year’s least-loved companies.
Commodity producers posted their best weekly rise since October amid a rally in crude and metals prices. That helped the equity benchmark recoup most of a two-day rout following the Federal Reserve’s rate increase on Dec. 16 and briefly reclaim gains for the year. A report last week showing that consumer spending buoyed the economy in the third quarter also added to optimism that growth can accelerate even as rates rise.
While policy makers expect the pace of future rate boosts will be gradual, they have emphasized that the path depends on progress in economic data. Reports this week include readings on home prices, consumer confidence and pending home sales.
Stocks are still defying the historical trend of gains in the final month of the year. Amid a series of sharp rallies and selloffs revolving around investor focus on the first U.S. rate increase in almost a decade, the S&P 500 is heading for its worst December since 2002, down 1.2 percent. The main U.S. equity benchmark today lost its slim advance for the year, now down 0.1 percent after weaving between gains and losses throughout December.
“I don’t think we will see a huge decision made by any fund managers,” said Benno Galliker, a trader at Luzerner Kantonalbank in Lucerne, Switzerland. “The story could really be interesting next year. January is a sign for the whole year and I think we could see quite some volatility.”
–With assistance from Alex Longley.